A former Kansas State University student has apologized for a Snapchat image that went viral, with many sharing it on social media as a symbol of racism on campus.

Paige Shoemaker, who was a student at Kansas State at the time, said she and her friend Sadie Meier, who is not a Kansas State student, had put on a clay cosmetic facial mask and were Snapchatting with a friend who is black. “He had made a joke about us ‘being black’ now,” Shoemaker wrote in a text message. “We then took the picture thinking that it would be okay. Our intent was NEVER to offend anyone.

The photo showed her and her friend with their faces blackened and had the caption: “Feels good to finally be a [racial slur].”

“I am truly sorry that I have offended so many people,” she wrote in response to the ensuing firestorm. “I am the furthest thing from racist, I am an incredibly accepting person and would never do something to intentionally poke at a race.

“I understand that me having black friends doesn’t make it acceptable for me to use the word that I did. I have definitely learned to make sure I am more aware of my audience and to never use a derogatory term,” she said.

She said she had been removed from school because of it. A representative for the university said Friday that Shoemaker was not enrolled at Kansas State.

University leaders were quick to denounce the image and language used, meeting with students from the Black Student Union to reassure them that “there is no place for racism at our university,” as Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students, said in a written statement to the campus community last week.

Black Student Union leaders said they were disheartened but not surprised by the image, saying it brought to light racial issues that many universities are dealing with. They also said they would use it to renew their push for changes at Kansas State, such as a multicultural center and mandatory classes about diversity for all students.

Bryan Davis, president of the Black Student Union, wrote in a text message, “I think her response showed that she didn’t grasp the severity of what she did.” He said that if she had had the opportunity to learn about cultural and racial issues through a class or even by talking with people in the community, “perhaps she would’ve had enough prior knowledge to prevent the incident and her apology would be genuine. We can’t eradicate racism by simply not looking at it. We have to take the necessary, uncomfortable, steps that lead to institutional change.

“This was not an isolated incident, it was a snapshot of the current university climate and an idea of how black people are perceived in this environment. I don’t think we’ve taken the necessary steps to influence the mindset of fixed minds like Paige’s here at Kansas State University.”

As the image continued to spread online over the weekend, Shoemaker wrote:

“I just want people to know that I didn’t put the facial mask on with the idea of taking a racist picture. It was meant for a select group of friends on my snapchat,” she wrote. “I am so incredibly sorry for all the lives that I have affected.

“I don’t truly understand the daily struggle that African Americans go through but I know that it’s not an easy life, I wouldn’t never intentionally scrutinize or make of of anybody. I am one of the most giving people you will ever meet.

“I understand that there will be people that don’t accept my apology, but please just know how sorry I am for my actions. I just wish people would come to me and ask me about what happened and try to get to know me before they judge me off of the picture and everyone else’s opinions on the internet.”

Davis wrote, “I do forgive her, now what are we going to do to stop this from happening in the future.”